A Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons story
PART 1: REFLECTIONS
He had been watching them…
Ever since he had discovered their existence, ever since he found out that, by a stroke of chance, he was actually able to watch them, he had done just that, without any scruples whatsoever, without a single ounce of shame. After all, as far as he knew, they didn’t know he even existed, let alone that he was there, spying on them.
Spying on her.
She was so much alive, so much like he remembered; it was a miracle to find her again, after having thought he had lost her forever, all that time. He knew it was partly his fault she had disappeared from his life, and it hurt him ever more so, as he had never truly had the time to tell her how much she meant to him, how much he loved her…
How much he missed her now.
He had seen their love grow, becoming much more than it had been in the beginning, much more than he had aspired to for himself and her at the time she disappeared from his life. He had watched as they struggled against whatever life threw at them, fighting against the odds in their personal and professional lives – they were living dangerously, like himself, and they never knew if tomorrow they would still be there for one another. And yet, always, they were able to surmount whatever fate would throw at them, and those obstacles, however difficult, only seemed to make their love burn even more passionately with each passing day. They had some help, of course. They had the support and understanding of all their friends, who stood by them as if they were there specifically to make sure they would survive every peril and be together.
He had watched, and listened, as they made plans for their future together, imagining what it would be like, what they would do. They had been planning their wedding for a long time…and now, at long last, this day was within their grasp.
It would be soon. Very soon.
He was so envious of their happiness.
He should be the one standing by her side, protecting her, loving her, sharing her days and nights. If not for a cruel stroke of fate, which had denied him everything he had hoped for… everything he had longed for…
This was so unfair.
To touch her again… to be with her again…
This life should have been his. This happiness should have been his own. This woman, whom he still loved so much it that it hurt, turning his life upside down, should have been his woman.
Not that other’s…
That other man who was presently having all that should have been his… Who was living his life.
No. It would not be. He would not permit it.
He would take back his rightful place; reclaim his life and his love, his right to happiness with this woman for whom he had longed, whom he had spied on from a distance, without her knowledge that he even existed.
He would not let her marry that other… Because he was the only one for her. She would be his…
No-one loved her more than he did. He would prove it to her.
And he knew just exactly how he would do that… Time was growing near, he would have to act soon.
“Spectrum Research Centre Valley Forge, this is SPJ-41. Approaching destination. E.T.A. thirty minutes. Request acknowledgement.”
“SPJ-41, this is Control Tower Spectrum Research. Approach S.I.G. We are waiting for your arrival.”
“S.I.G., Control Tower. Will await your contact nearer the time for landing clearance.”
Captain Blue killed the communication channel and leaned back comfortably in his seat, leaving the automatic pilot on; there was still time for him to relax a bit, before taking back control of the plane.
Now, this is the life, he thought contently. He always loved flying a plane, whenever his job demanded it; and whenever they were in transit, wherever they had to go for the next mission, none of his colleagues would even consider denying him this pleasure of his. Not even Ochre, who freely admitted that his own love of flying was nothing compared to what he called ‘Blue’s uncompromising passion’.
But aside from being at the helm of a powerful jet, there was nothing like the sensation and knowledge of being between earth and space… soaring amongst and above the clouds. It was a unique feeling that he had never been able to describe to anyone – and that he didn’t really need to describe to those who knew him very well. They knew about it; some of them even shared this sensation with him. That was probably one of the reasons he liked being stationed on Cloudbase.
There was nothing quite like it.
Well, there was one thing, actually – and all of his colleagues also knew what it was that Blue liked even more than flying and soaring into the sky.
Captain Blue escaped from his temporary fugue, just as Captain Scarlet returned from the passenger cabin, and came to sit in the co-pilot seat.
“You’re just in time,” Blue told him. “We’ll be landing in about thirty minutes.”
“Good,” Scarlet answered. “Even a simple landing will be a welcome distraction.”
“Oh?” Blue said, distractedly watching the clouds passing by. “It’s that quiet in the back?”
“Boring,” Scarlet specified, heaving a deep sigh. “It’s no picnic, keeping Doctor Lavender company, I can tell you. Ochre tried to convince me to take his place; he wanted to toss me for it, can you imagine. I wouldn’t even do it if he offered me half a week’s salary.”
“You played it wise and ran away, I see,” Blue said with an amused smile.
“Quite right. Lavender thinks it’s necessary to explain his views of the Anderson Theory to whoever’s willing to listen to him…” Scarlet frowned at his own choice of words, and corrected himself right away: “Actually, even to anyone who’s not willing… It really doesn’t matter if the person in question is asleep, he’ll still talk…”
“Asleep?” Blue sounded perplexed. “Ochre’s asleep?”
“Well, I think he pretended to be when I left. I’m not sure if he is now.”
Blue chuckled at the thought; he left Scarlet to check the instruments, while he returned his attention to the contemplation of the blue sky and white clouds he could see through the cockpit windshield.
Scarlet glanced at him. “Penny for your thoughts.”
Blue raised a brow and sighed. “You just wasted your money,” he said. “My thoughts are not so much of a mystery these days.”
“That’s because you have a one-track mind,” Scarlet replied with a grin. “Is your marriage worrying you that much?”
Blue grunted. “It’s not the marriage so much as the wedding ceremony itself. You know, it’s a lot to think about: invitations to send, hiring caterers for the dinner, finding the minister, organizing the reception, making travel and accommodation arrangements for everyone…”
“Planning the honeymoon…” Scarlet added mischievously.
Blue smiled, his mind wandering into a momentary daydream.
“I can’t imagine how making travel and accommodation arrangements for everyone could be such a problem,” Scarlet continued. “I’m sure there aren’t that many people from your side of the family who can’t afford the plane tickets…”
“No… but they have to be there at the right date.” Blue grew sombre. “And we haven’t decided on that just yet.”
Scarlet chuckled. “Shouldn’t that be your first preoccupation?”
“We’re still trying to figure out what would be the perfect time to hold the ceremony. You know, we want as many of our friends as possible to be there, so we want to make sure everyone will be free for the occasion. We know that probably not every Cloudbase officer will be able to make it – duty schedules and all that… but at the very least, we need you and Rhapsody to be there.”
“Well, I hope so – since I’m supposed to be your best man…”
“And there’s the colonel too; he agreed to give Karen away at the ceremony.” Blue sighed deeply, and frowned. “So far, that wouldn’t be so much of a problem, if there wasn’t our families to take into account. Our respective mothers seem to want to invite everyone on the planet, including the Pope.”
“Oh boy… Have you settled where the ceremony will be held? You’ll need a big place for that kind of gathering. Especially if His Holiness is to attend… He has quite a retinue, following him around…”
“Mom would have liked for it to happen in Boston – on the family lawn…” Blue shook his head. “But that really doesn’t look like it would be for the best. The family still gets a lot of interest from the media. An event like that might attract way too much attention. More than what Karen and I would like to have, anyway.”
“We thought the wedding could be held in Iowa, at Karen’s family ranch. Plenty of space, away from prying eyes… And quite a lovely setting at that. Amanda already gave her consent, if we do choose to hold the ceremony there.”
“Seems ideal all right. Would your mother agree to that, though?”
“She seemed to like the idea when we mentioned it to her. She was less disappointed than I thought she would be, when I told her the family mansion would not be the ideal place.”
“Your mother is a great lady.”
“She made one condition, though. That she would be allowed to help Amanda in all the preparations… and that the family would pay its share. In her head, that means, pay for everything.”
Scarlet glanced at his friend. “Wait a minute… if Amanda and your mother are taking charge of the preparations – how come you’re worrying so much about it all? I’m sure they will make a fine job of it!”
“That’s the problem,” Blue sighed. “They’ll make too fine a job. Karen and I will have to go through everything to make sure they have not gone overboard… especially when it comes to the guest list. We don’t want a few hundred people to be present!”
“No… Just a couple of hundred of the best crowd… and the Pope, of course…”
“Paul, I wasn’t being serious – it was only a figure of speech!”
“I know,” Scarlet answered with a teasing smile.
“Anyway, don’t joke about this being a reception for only a couple of hundred people. You don’t know my mom…”
“Not as well as you do, obviously.” Scarlet smirked. “But I know you. I’m surprised you had not decided to avoid all this and simply elope with Karen.”
“Are you kidding? I wouldn’t even dream of it.” Blue smiled in turn. “Despite it all, and although I would really prefer a smaller, more private ceremony, this is something I want to go through with Karen. This is our big day… and I want for it to be perfect for us. For Karen, especially. I know she’ll be absolutely thrilled if this is as grandiose as our mothers want it to be.”
“I can’t disagree with that. You’re a romantic at heart, Mr. Svenson.”
“Well, take notes, Mr. Metcalfe. Soon enough, it’ll be your turn.”
Scarlet didn’t have time to answer the comment, and Blue would have to wait to find out exactly what his friend’s thoughts about it were, as almost precisely at that moment, the onboard radio came alive with a voice addressing them:
“SPJ-41, this is Control Tower, Spectrum Research. You are five minutes from your destination. Commence landing procedures.”
Blue answered: “SPJ-41, Captain Blue answering. SIG, Spectrum Research Control.”
“Back to work, then,” Scarlet said, reaching for the intercom microphone. “Better tell our passengers that we’re about to land.”
“Yep… Fortunately, it looks like it’ll be a quiet mission. We should get back to Cloudbase soon enough.”
“Already missing your lady love, then?” Scarlet asked with a grin.
Blue disengaged the automatic pilot and took hold of the helm. He concentrated on the task ahead, but took the time to answer his friend with a grin of his own: “You bet.”
The SPJ started its descent towards the runway below.
The Spectrum Research Centre in Valley Forge had its own runway, with its own hangars, set at some distance from the facility, which was mostly underground. While the SPJ was taxied into one of the hangars for its routine check up and maintenance after flight, Captains Scarlet and Blue joined with Captain Ochre and Doctor Lavender, Cloudbase’s head of R and D, and took the monorail cart to the main building. After passing through the security check, the cart brought them directly to a back entrance, and then into the technical research department, where Doctor Giadello, head of the Complex, welcomed them with his usual warmth and energy. Doctor Giadello was an affable, very professional man, who always took pride in his work and whose curiosity seemed not to know any end. In that last aspect, Doctor Lavender was quite like him – although he wasn’t exactly regarded as highly as Giadello. Lavender wasn’t as easy-going, nor as sympathetic. Many of those who had to interact closely with him mostly came to the same conclusion: that Lavender wasn’t a likeable man. He wasn’t indifferent – it was obvious he was enthusiastic about his work – but he was far too detached, and he lacked social skills and a certain humane quality that made people want to avoid interacting with him. Captain Scarlet was the first to acknowledge the man’s dedication to his work, but he was also amongst those who would avoid him as much as possible. Which, in his particular case, considering the curiosity presented by his very peculiar condition, wasn’t always an easy thing to do.
“Alistair, it’s good to see you,” Giadello said, clasping hands with Lavender. “It’s been some time. You still like living amongst the clouds?”
Lavender answered with a slight smile. It had been a little more than a year since he had received a promotion, and had left the confines of the Valley Forge Research Centre, where he worked as one of Giadello’s closest assistants, to become chief of Cloudbase’s Research and Development department. Although he admitted to enjoy working with Giadello, the new position offered new challenges that he would not dare to resist – or miss. Since then, he had met on a few occasions with his former superior, and every time, the latter had asked him the same question, as if he had expected Lavender to say he would like to come back. It was Giadello, however, who had recommended Lavender for the position.
After shaking hands with the Spectrum officers, Doctor Giadello invited the group to follow him, and he guided them through the corridors and into a lift that took them down to one of the many underground levels of the complex.
“We are so glad to have you with us for this occasion, Alistair – I mean, Doctor Lavender.” Giadello offered a sheepish smile. “I’m sorry, it seems a little awkward to call you that. After all the time we worked together, since the U.S.S. Applied Technologies Department...”
“That’s all right, Doctor,” Lavender replied. “No harm done, really. Have you made any breakthrough since last we discussed the subject?”
“Quite a lot, actually. That’s why it’s so exciting to have you with us, considering all the input you gave us in the discoveries we made so far. And it’s good to have you with us too, Captain Scarlet, Captain Ochre… After all, it was your own experience that encouraged us to pursue further research in this new field.”
“I’m still wondering how wise that research actually is, Doctor,” Scarlet said quietly enough. “We might very well open a brand new can of worms that we don’t really want to see open.”
“Yes,” Ochre said in turn. “Remember Pandora’s Box? How are we to know that this won’t lead to catastrophe?”
“Catastrophe?” The door opened in front of them, and Giadello guided them out and into a new corridor. “There is no reason to worry, Captains,” he continued, dismissing the officers’ concern with a wave of the hand. “I can see no way this can turn out wrong.”
They passed by multiple doors, and upon reaching the last one, where a security sergeant stood guard, Giadello punched a code into the key-pad. The door slid open in front of them and they entered, one behind the other. A blond man, wearing spectacles and a white laboratory coat, was waiting for them, standing in front of a large computerised wall, right next to a round console that made two of the three officers go stiff as they recognised it.
“You remember Doctor Kurnitz, from the Radio Communication Department of the Nash Institute, gentlemen?” Giadello presented.
“We do indeed,” Blue said. “Nice to meet you again, Doctor Kurnitz.”
“Captain Blue, Captain Scarlet… Captain Ochre, is that right?” Kurnitz nodded to them. “Doctor Lavender, happy you could join us.”
“The good captains are a little worried about the research we’re pursuing within these walls, Doctor,” Giadello said to his colleague. “They are a bit concerned that whatever we do could end in catastrophe, as Captain Ochre put it.”
“Really?” Kurnitz gave what seemed like an amused smile. “You don’t have to worry, Captains. We are not planning to put these new discoveries into application, by travelling through the many worlds composing the multiverse. At least, not at the moment.”
Ochre scowled. “That last part is exactly what I was afraid to hear.”
“What Captain Ochre is trying to say, Doctors,” Captain Scarlet said in turn, “is that my colleagues and I have come here, not only to escort Doctor Lavender, so he could join you in your work, but because we are under orders from Colonel White to make sure that everything going on here is proceeding safely, and that there are no risks involved whatsoever.”
“I assure you, Captain Scarlet,” Giadello explained, “that every safety measure has been taken so far to ensure that no accident will ever occur.”
“We know,” Blue said. “Cloudbase received reports from Lieutenant Obsidian, your chief of security at the complex. Those safety measures looked more than satisfactory.”
“However,” Scarlet continued, “we all know that the handling of Mysteron red stones combined with the Kurnitz console can be very hazardous. Last time it was tried, even though the stones seemed inert, it ended up in an accident…”
“Which opened a portal to a parallel world,” Lavender added quickly. “And because of this accident, Captain, we all know with complete certainty that the Anderson Theory is a reality… Not some harebrained fantasy.”
“Well, Captain Ochre and I nearly died because of that accident,” Scarlet reminded him. “Or, at the very least, almost got stuck in that parallel world we accidentally discovered.”
“Yeah… we were lucky that your counterparts actually found the way for us to get back,” Ochre added.
“I admit that the energy displayed by the opening of the inter-dimensional portal is rather impressive,” Kurnitz remarked, “and as you say, it was done quite by accident. When he was studying the red stones last year, Doctor Lavender didn’t expect anything like that to happen.”
“The ride back wasn’t exactly an accident,” Scarlet replied. “And it was still rather bumpy.”
“Yet, our counterparts did find a certain way to better control the flow of energy,” Kurnitz continued.
“It didn’t run the risk of destroying Cloudbase that second time, if that’s what you mean, Doctor,” Scarlet remarked.
“Well, now we know how powerful such a vortex could prove; our aim is actually to find a way to harness that energy,” Giadello moved on. “And to control it far better than it has been so far, so it won’t be as destructive when we open it again.”
“So you do want to use the inter-dimensional portal to access those other worlds,” Blue said pensively.
“Oh, not to visit, Captain…” Lavender replied. “Only to watch… study… without interfering, or interacting with them whatsoever. Now that we know that these other worlds exist, we can learn a lot, just by watching and comparing notes with them…”
“We might even find a way to defeat the Mysterons,” Giadello added with some level of excitement.
“Or to piss them off further,” Ochre finished, darkly. His comments greatly amused both Scarlet and Blue, and they had to make an effort not to smile openly. On the other hand, they couldn’t help but concur with him.
The three scientists, however, were not of the same opinion.
“Really, Captain, you would stop the course of progress because of your fear of the unknown?”
“I have no fear of the unknown, Doctor Lavender,” Ochre replied coldly, not appreciating the scientist’s contemptuous remark. “I’m just a very careful man, and I don’t believe in taking unnecessary risks, when they can be avoided. Besides, the course of progress might very well be one of the reasons why we’re presently in this awful mess with the Mysterons.”
“You can’t believe that, Captain,” Kurnitz observed.
“Well, if we had not been in so much of a hurry to check those communication signals that your institute picked up coming from Mars, Doctor, maybe we would have avoided that goddammed planet until we were ready for an encounter with the Mysterons in the first place,” Ochre continued. “As it is, we all know how that encounter went… and if that was not a ‘catastrophe’, then I don’t know what is.”
Scarlet and Blue exchanged knowing glances; Ochre wasn’t a talkative one when it came to important or serious subjects, which he generally preferred to keep to himself. But when he had something to say, he never minced his words, and he was able to debate his point intelligently. He knew perfectly well that, because he was viewed by some as something of a shallow character – because he loved to indulge in simple pastimes, banter and sometimes play inoffensive practical jokes on his close friends – some people did not take him very seriously. These people often forgot, though, that Ochre was an extremely clever man, very competent and dedicated, and that these qualities had nearly brought him to become high commander of the World Government Police Corps. That he did not hold this highly significant post today was probably only due to the personal choice he made, a few years back, when he considered that he would serve a greater good if he were to join the senior staff of the then newly formed Spectrum organisation.
Now these three scientists, confident of their so-called high intellect and their vast knowledge, were being challenged and even stomped by the sharpness of an ex-cop who used to walk the beat on the darkest streets of Chicago, and who had became so proficient in reading the minds of criminals, that he was able to predict their next moves in the next twenty-four hours – often preventing a tragedy from happening.
“Are you saying that these harmless explorations we’ll be planning,” Lavender said with a faint scoff, “could disturb an alien civilisation living in a parallel universe, Captain Ochre?”
“Can you confirm to me that there is none in existence, Doctor Lavender?” Ochre asked coolly. “We all know the Mysterons also plague that other world Captain Scarlet and I visited… And that’s only one world. We also know that they are aware of these worlds – if I remember correctly, it was your counterpart who told this to Captain Scarlet. After he had been made into a Mysteron agent himself.”
“There is no need to be so pessimistic, Captain,” Giadello said, interrupting Lavender as the latter was preparing himself to give what no doubt would be a sharp reply. “We told you, we do not plan to visit these other worlds, and therefore, we won’t be disturbing anyone, or anything, even less any creatures that might cause us any harm.”
“That is reassuring to hear, Doctor,” Blue said with a nod. “However, before we proceed with any test that you might want to conduct, we must ensure complete security around this complex, and within the confines of this room.”
“Of course, Captain Blue,” Giadello agreed. “You will need to see Lieutenant Obsidian, then. Should I call for him? He would be in the monitoring room.”
“Well, can you direct me to the monitoring room, then?” Ochre suggested. “This way I could learn first hand how well security is handled here. I trust Obsidian is doing good work, but better safe than sorry, as they say, right?”
“Besides, that would be standard procedure,” Scarlet concluded.
“I can take you there, Captain,” Giadello suggested. “I wouldn’t want for you to get lost on the way.”
“In the meantime,” Kurnitz continued, “Doctor Lavender and I could go to the security vault, to get the fragments of red stone we need for our little experiment.”
“Fragments, Doctor?” Scarlet inquired.
“Very tiny ones, Captain. What we could actually retrieve from that explosion in Iceland a few years ago. You have seen the larger pieces of the stones, the egg-sized rocks that opened the vortex last year. We still have three of those. But for the purpose of this experiment, and since we do not want to create a near disaster like last time on Cloudbase…” Kurnitz addressed a genuine smile to Ochre, “… we will use the fragments. That should be quite sufficient to create the spark we need to establish a short contact, once we’ve plugged them into the console. And it will be safer, I can guarantee you.”
“We’re glad to hear it, Doctor,” Scarlet answered, approvingly. “But still, are you sure those fragments will be enough?”
“I’ve been working on a handheld device for months, Captain, with some of the features offered by this console that I built to contact the Mysterons years ago. Although the fragments were actually enough to power the device, I’m afraid I was unable to make contact through the inter-dimensional vortex. It seems there’s something missing – maybe some kind of frequency to which I would be able to home in to. I thought that the console could provide this missing element. It certainly would be able to extract more power from the fragments, anyway, and would have a larger scope…”
“If you say so, Doctor,” Scarlet answered hesitantly. He wasn’t about to argue with something he only half understood.
“Would you care to come with us too?” Kurnitz told him. “Along with Captain Blue, of course…”
Scarlet and Blue exchanged glances and then shook their heads simultaneously, declining the invitation.
“No, thank you, Doctor,” Blue answered. “We’ll be standing guard next to your console, until you get back.” He grinned. “We promise not to touch anything.”
“I’m sure you won’t,” Kurnitz said with a grin, as he and Lavender directed their steps towards the door. “We shall not be very long, then.”
“Have fun, you two,” Ochre called as he followed Giadello. “I will return as soon as I’ve checked security around here.”
Captains Scarlet and Blue watched the four other men leave, and the door slid close on them. As soon as they disappeared, Blue heaved a deep sigh.
“You actually think that Ochre will come back?” he asked his colleagues.
“Yes… after the experiment, if he’s got any sense. I can’t blame him for feeling worried about all this. He got pretty beaten up in that adventure last year.”
“So were you, if I recall.”
“Well, I got better. Ochre passed most of his time in the other world in Cloudbase’s sickbay. Quite frankly, I was surprised to learn he volunteered to come along.”
“He wanted to make sure that everything will turn out right.”
Scarlet nodded slowly, and turned around to face the Kurnitz console; followed by Blue, he approached it, to get a better look.
“It hasn’t changed that much, has it?” Blue commented.
“No,” Scarlet agreed. “It’s similar to the last time I saw it. With not as many burn marks on it, maybe...”
Blue chuckled. “I do believe it’s not exactly the same one that exploded on Cloudbase,” he said. “I think they built a new one following new plans drawn up by Doctor Kurnitz.”
“I see. Oh, here’s a difference I just noticed...”
He pointed to three small, squared cavities on top of the console, just in front of him. Each of them was covered with a transparent flap, showing that they were empty. Scarlet lifted one of the flaps to peer inside the tiny compartment. He could see connections on each end of it.
“Looks like some kind of ‘battery compartment’,” he said. “I think this is where they intend to plug their stone fragments.” He closed the lid.
“Let’s hope that everything will be fine,” Blue said in a low voice.
“Let’s hope,” Scarlet agreed, turning around and taking a few steps away from the console. “But let’s keep close to the door, you and I, when they conduct that test. Just in case.”
Blue’s answer came in the form of an amused smile.
At exactly that moment, they both realised, simultaneously, that their ears were buzzing; they both stopped, looking at each other in puzzlement.
Blue reached for his ear with one hand. “Do you hear that…”
He was interrupted when a loud booming sound suddenly filled the room.
There was a deafening explosion, seemingly coming from the Kurnitz console, which sent it flying into the air in two broken pieces, and so violent that it blew both men off their feet, taking them utterly by surprise, and throwing them several feet away from where they stood. They landed roughly on the floor, stunned, barely conscious, before they could understand what was happening.
It was as if a bomb had exploded right next to them, which was now spreading destruction and fire all around, destroying the roof, walls and machinery, and rapidly filling the room with smoke and dust, before they could understand what was happening.
Both men struggled to get back to their feet, shakily, trying to regain their balance and their senses. Scarlet looked around in complete bafflement; his vision was a half-blur and his ears were ringing. He could feel the floor shaking under his feet, as if it had become unstable because of the explosion; it was making him feel dizzy, and he had to fight to keep steady on his feet. Blue, by his side, seemed to have a little more trouble than himself; probably, Scarlet realised, he had been the more shaken by the explosion. As the English captain took a step towards his companion to help him, he heard a loud creaking sound from overhead; he raised his head…
… And saw that the ceiling was suddenly coming down onto them.
“Look out!” Scarlet’s warning was drowned by the deafening sound, but it didn’t matter that much, as he leapt in his friend’s direction and vigorously pushed him out of harm’s way; as he fell to the floor again, Blue avoided most of the falling debris, although some of it still hit him, but Scarlet was unable to avoid it, receiving the full impact and finding himself buried underneath.
Hit over the head, the half-conscious Captain Blue lay in the dust; he was barely aware of the white light that suddenly glowed brightly at one end of the room, bathing it in an eerie dust-filled radiance, before dying out quietly after a brief instant.
Blue took several seconds, or minutes, he wasn’t really sure, before he started to regain most of his senses; groaning, he attempted awkwardly to get back onto his feet. Dazed, holding his aching head, he tested himself to make sure nothing was broken; he realised then that his ears were still buzzing so loudly that he barely could hear himself think. He felt a hot breeze hitting him; probably he thought, the air conditioning duct had burst in the explosion. He could barely hear a thing, his ears buzzing all the time; he wondered if his eardrums had been damaged.
“Scarlet?” he called, softly at first. He looked around, searching for his missing companion; he couldn’t see him. He called louder, but the dust irritated his throat, and he coughed loudly. He reached for his head again, and moaned, wondering if he was suffering from a concussion.
Another groan, answering his own, attracted his attention and he looked through the dust, searching. Half-muffled by this constant buzzing sound in his ears, he realised that this moan couldn’t come from very far away.
Narrowing his eyes, he looked in the direction of the door. A large mound of debris was now piled in front of it, and almost completely blocked the way. The moaning sound that he had heard started again, and this time, Blue realised it was coming from this pile of rubble.
He made his way to it, stumbling on the rubble-covered floor, probing through the dust; and suddenly, he saw it, in the middle of the pile, showing through the debris: the red of his friend’s tunic, nearly hidden by dust.
“Scarlet!” Blue climbed onto the pile to reach his friend. Scarlet’s face, his eyes closed, showed between the debris, covered with a thin layer of dust and blood. Half of his body was buried under the rubble.
“Scarlet, can you hear me?” Blue knelt beside his friend. “Come on, Scarlet, old buddy… Wake up already. You’ve got to help me a bit here…”
But none of Blue’s pleas were answered; Scarlet had grown quiet again. Worriedly, the American captain gently tapped his colleague’s cheek; this time, he was rewarded with a new groan, and saw his head move. But Scarlet’s eyes remained closed.
His heart, Blue noticed, was beating fast under his hand.
“Well, at least you’re alive,” he muttered under his breath. “I know how much you hate to ‘die needlessly’…” He sighed deeply, looking at all the rubble that half-buried his colleague, and which was blocking their way out. “So I guess it’ll be up to me to dig you out on my own… until someone can get to us, that is.” He set to work, removing beams and concrete blocks from the body of his friend, as carefully as he could, so that the wall of ruined debris would not crumble down and completely bury both of them. The air, filled with brick dust and smoke, was difficult to breath, and his work was rendered even more difficult. He wondered how long he would be able to hold out before suffocating to death.
Stop having these thoughts, Svenson… People are surely trying to open this door - digging on the other side of this wall of rubble. There’s no way anyone could have missed this explosion, so help is coming. They’ll get here in time, so stop worrying so much… They KNOW we’re here.
He stopped to catch his breath, and coughed to clear his aching throat. That sent a new wave of pain to his head, and he reached for it, stifling a groan and a curse.
That’s when he thought he heard a noise from behind him.
It was like pebbles rolling on the floor. That made him turn and look in alarm; the dust had grown so much thicker that he needed to narrow his eyes to see through it. The emergency lights were barely enough to see by, and all he actually managed to make out was a flash of white light, at the other end of the room. He frowned, unable to really distinguish what it could be. Another light, perhaps… A fire… He wondered if it wasn’t announcing another explosion, and for a moment, he braced himself, expectantly. But nothing happened.
He heard it again; that sound of disturbed pebbles. But this time, coming from the opposite side.
Turning swiftly around, Blue drew his gun, slowly, and stood on his feet to take a few steps towards where the sound came from. It was nearly dark in this section of the room, and there was silence now – although Blue’s ears were still buzzing slightly.
He found nothing that could cause concern, and slowly turned towards the brilliant white light; he went to it, slowly, trying to get a better view.
He was about ten feet away, when he finally realised what it was: a simple exposed electric cable, hanging from the ceiling and swinging back and forth. Pricking his ears, Blue could even hear the sizzling sound it was making.
He heard noises again behind him, and turned to witness as small pieces of concrete and plaster fell from the ceiling to the floor.
Stuff is still falling from the ceiling, he realised. That’s what I was hearing all along. There’s no-one here with us… We were all alone, when the explosion occurred.
Blowing a sigh of relief, and chiding himself, Blue pushed his gun back into its holster and turned to walk back to the blocked door and the pile of rubble, from which he still had to extract his trapped friend.
He felt the unidentified presence, but never actually saw it coming; a silhouette suddenly emerged from the shadows, and stood right behind him, before brutally bringing the butt of a gun down against the back of Blue’s head. The pain was terrible, but mercifully brief, and Blue lost consciousness almost immediately. He fell face first onto the dust- and rubble-covered floor, without a sound, barely a foot away from the motionless and unaware Captain Scarlet.
The man who had knocked Captain Blue down quietly stood over his victim and looked down at him with an unemotional expression on his face; he was wondering… did he strike him too hard? Did he kill him? He crouched down and checked his pulse at the base of his neck; he could feel it beating steadily under his fingers.
Good. I wouldn’t want for him to be dead. It could spoil all my plans.
But he has to disappear…
He tossed the unconscious man’s body onto his back and, in a fireman’s hold, carried it towards the darker side of the room, his feet almost slipping onto the unsteady floor. Suddenly, he started hearing noises coming from the other side of the door, blocked by debris. Drilling sounds, and human shouts, calling to those trapped inside the room, faintly audible through the heap of broken concrete:
“Blue! Scarlet! Can you hear me? Hang on! We’ll get you out of there!”
The man grunted with impatience, and hurried his steps. Quickly… before they get through…
He reached his destination, walking between the two broken halves of the Kurnitz Console, and tossed Blue none too gently onto the ground, between them. He heard the Spectrum captain groaning upon landing, and understood that he had even less time to act than he first imagined.
He reached into his pocket and extracted something from it.
It was a stone of crystal-like dark red, about the size of an egg, its surface polished and brilliant, fixed to an electronic device to which a wire was hooked, leading to a digital pad that the man held in his hand. He started pressing a series of numbers on the pad. The stone started to shine faintly, with a red light, and as he continued to punch the numeric code, it shone with a brighter glow.
The man unhooked the stone from his handheld digital pad, and put it into his pocket, before getting back to his feet; he punched a last command and stood back quickly. There was a dull boom, and a new shrilling sound, almost deafening, and the light became brighter still, to turn to a brilliant and blinding white in the middle, surrounding Blue in its glow. It expanded rapidly and the man stepped back further, avoiding it as it completely engulfed the Spectrum captain, making him disappear from view.
There was a gust of violent whirlwind and then the light exploded into a sonic boom… It reverberated through the room, and the man ducked behind a supporting beam to evade it.
From the other side of the door, the drilling sounds had stopped, and then there were new calls, with a panicky edge to them:
“What’s that sound? What’s going on in there? Blue! Scarlet! Can you hear me?”
The man stood from his hiding place, coughing from the cloud of dust that had been created by the new explosion. He looked in the direction of the Kurnitz Console, narrowing his eyes to see; the bright white light was gone now, as if the blast had extinguished it; there was still a small, sizzling spark, suspended into empty space, approximately in the middle of where the larger light previously was. Next to it, one of the console’s halves was on fire, thoroughly destroyed…
As for Captain Blue…
An unexpected creaking sound coming from the ceiling made the man look up swiftly in concern; he realised then, maybe a little too late, that this last explosion might have been a little too much for the already heavily damaged room.
The roof came caving in on him, with a loud rumble, just as the drill came through the door, and, the handheld device escaping from his hand, he fell face down into the dust, almost on top of the still unconscious Captain Scarlet.
“Captain Blue, can you hear me?”
Blue moaned, his head pounding, as the voice reached him through a thick fog. Yes, he could hear the voice… But why did its owner felt the need to shout so loudly?
“He’s coming around,” a new voice said. “I think he’s going be all right…”
“Blue, wake up… You slept enough already…”
“Easy now… Don’t move, Captain.” Blue felt fingers gently open one of his eyes, and a light was shone into it. For a moment, he was blinded. He groaned in annoyance, and tried to push the hand and light away from him.
“What are you doing?” he asked in a slurred, annoyed voice.
“It’s all right, it’s all right…” the last voice said quietly, as the light went away. “I diagnosed a slight concussion earlier. Just wanted to make sure you were okay, and that it wasn’t worse than that.”
Blue blinked his eyes, looking up; at first, his vision was a total blur; all he could see were colours, and forms, but no details at all. There were people standing in front of him, and he could see a face leaning over him, looking at him. The man stood up and Blue’s vision cleared, and he could see that he was wearing a medic’s vest. He got a better view of the two men in Spectrum uniform who were now approaching.
As soon as he saw their concerned faces, Blue’s eyes grew wide with confusion and he suddenly drew away from them, as far as the bed on which he was lying would allow. He stared at his colleagues with some kind of fear in his eyes.
“Whoa! Take it easy!” The medic came back to Blue, who shivered at his touch. Gently, carefully, the man examined him further, checking his head, looking into his eyes, taking his pulse. He shook his head, frowning. “You seem anxious, or something, Captain. You’re sweating… Your heart is a little too fast and so’s your breathing. Are you afraid of something?”
“What is it, Blue?” Scarlet asked as he approached his colleague, who was looking at him with fear in his eyes. “You’re awfully pale. You look as if you’ve seen a ghost…”
“A… ghost?” Blue shook his head, and trying to get his breathing back to normal, lowered his head and blew a deep breath. “I… guess I might at that.” He looked back into his friend’s confused face. “You were… pretty beaten up, last I saw of you, Scarlet.”
“Yeah well, I got better, as usual,” Scarlet said with a shake of his head. “I wasn’t exactly ‘dead’ when they got me out from under that rubble. And fortunately, you were not either.”
“You got us worried, though,” Captain Ochre added, as he drew closer in turn. “You were unconscious, and stayed that way for hours.”
“Hours?” Blue repeated in confusion. The medic was gently pushing him back onto the bed, and he didn’t put up any resistance. He felt too worn-out for that.
“Enough time for Scarlet to recover completely.” Ochre jerked his thumb in the direction of their English colleague. “Then he got worried about you too…”
“You got hit over the head,” Scarlet continued, and watched as Blue reached for his head with one hand to feel the recent bandage that wrapped it. “The doctor says you have a concussion, along with a few scratches, bumps and pulled muscles, but that you looked otherwise okay.” He frowned, seeing Blue’s confusion. “You remember the explosion, Blue?”
“The explosion?” Blue repeated.
“Do you know where we are?” Scarlet continued.
“Of course, I know… we’re at the Spectrum Research Centre.” Blue looked up to his colleagues. “We came here, escorting Doctor Lavender… Something happened in the room, while we were waiting for the others to come back…”
Ochre and Scarlet exchanged satisfied looks. “Okay, you do remember,” Ochre said. “Can you remember seeing anything unusual, leading up to this explosion?”
Blue shook his head. “As far as I remember, everything was going fine, until… it happened.”
“I can only recall a buzzing sound,” Scarlet said in turn. “I already told Ochre, and Lieutenant Obsidian, who’s conducting the investigation. Do you remember it too, Blue?”
Blue frowned, searching his memory. “I guess I couldn’t hear much of anything,” he said thoughtfully. “I was almost deaf…”
“No surprise there. The explosion was pretty deafening, yes,” Scarlet concurred.
“I remember there was a lot of damage,” Blue murmured.
“The room is a total mess,” Ochre said with a nod. “If not for the reinforced walls, it would be completely destroyed. The material is mostly gone. The Kurnitz Console…”
“Destroyed?” Blue asked.
“Blown to pieces, yeah.” Ochre shook his head. “I would have thought it was the cause of the explosion, but… Doctor Giadello and Doctor Kurnitz are pretty adamant it couldn’t have exploded like that. It wasn’t powered up, to begin with. Neither was the computer it was plugged into. Unless one of you turned it on…”
“Which we didn’t,” Scarlet replied. “I told you already. And there was no-one else in this room but us, so no-one could have touched the machine without us knowing about it.”
“So, not a short-circuit, then?” Blue commented. He looked at Ochre. “Was anything found in the room?” he asked meaningfully. “Anything at all, out of the ordinary?”
Ochre shook his head. “Nothing that seemed out of place. Why the question?”
“Just wondering out loud,” Blue murmured with a dismissive wave of the hand.
“I think I know what you’re thinking. An explosive device planted in the room, maybe?”
“Sabotage?” Scarlet said with a raised brow. “By whom?”
Ochre sighed. “We’re not ruling anything out yet. Not an electrical accident, a malfunction, or the possibility that there had been a bomb planted in this place, nor even Mysteron activities…”
“You think the Mysterons could be behind it?” Blue asked with a frown.
“Well, it wouldn’t be beyond them to make something blow up without apparent explanation, would it?” Ochre remarked. “They’ve been known to have done such things in the past… Ah, and… we took the liberty of checking you out with a Mysteron detector, Blue.”
“You did what?” Blue murmured. He pointed to his bandaged head, eyes flashing. “Didn’t that tell you I wasn’t a filthy Mysteron, to begin with?” he asked with irritation.
Scarlet and Blue exchanged glances. It wasn’t like Blue to overreact like that. “Easy now,” Scarlet said with an uneasy smile. “It’s standard procedure after accidents, and you know it. We couldn’t run the risk that you had been… killed in the explosion and replaced by a double.”
“Very comforting,” Blue mumbled.
“Besides, maybe not every Mysteron agent can heal from all their wounds,” Ochre advanced. “Some of them, we’ve been pretty much able to kill without resorting to the Mysteron gun…”
“That’ll be enough, Ochre,” Scarlet quietly advised his colleague.
“And we needed to make sure you’re all right before your return to Cloudbase.” Ochre turned to Scarlet who was now glaring warningly at him. “Hey, he needed to know…”
“When are we going back?” Blue asked, half-rising from the bed. There seemed to be an impatience in his attitude; it was like he couldn’t wait to go. “I suppose there’s an investigation going on regarding the explosion…”
“Well, it’s not our job, actually. As I said, Obsidian is conducting the investigation,” Ochre replied. “In the last couple of hours, he’s been interrogating Scarlet about it, and checking the place. He’ll probably be coming to get a few answers from you…”
“I don’t have much more to tell him than Scarlet did…”
“He’ll come anyway, and will continue his investigation until he finds something conclusive. You know that Colonel White will want to know exactly what could have caused that… incident. He’s not very happy when something suspicious like that happens, and quite frankly, he’s within an inch of deciding to close down all research on the Anderson Theory within Spectrum operations indefinitely … I can’t say I blame him.”
“I can’t either,” Blue approved.
“Giadello and Kurnitz are appalled – and so is Lavender,” Scarlet reported. “They do believe they were about to make an important breakthrough.”
“So if Obsidian doesn’t need us, it means we’re going back to base soon?” Blue asked insistently.
“Well, we will be going soon,” Scarlet said. “But you will have to wait until you’re better.”
Blue didn’t seem to agree with the news. “I’m staying behind?”
“The doctor says that you should recover for a while, before you’re allowed to fly back to Cloudbase…”
“Out of the question,” Blue interrupted Scarlet swiftly. He pushed himself into a sitting position and then swung his legs off the bed and swiftly got to his feet. Hit by a wave of nausea, he swayed, and a concerned Scarlet stepped forwards to help him keep his balance.
“Easy now, Blue…”
As if annoyed by this simple helping gesture, Blue brushed his hands away. “I’m going back to Cloudbase with you,” he said sharply.
“You’ve been hurt – you need to rest,” Scarlet protested. “You’re not being reasonable, Adam.”
“You’re a fine one to tell me that!” Blue glared crossly at his English colleague. “There’s no way in hell I’m going to stay lying in bed here while you go back to base.”
“Boy, you’re certainly in a grumpy mood,” Ochre commented.
“You would be too if half a ceiling had fallen on your head!” Blue snapped at him angrily.
“Okay, okay…” Scarlet tried to calm his friend. “We get the idea…” He turned to the medic. “Is he going to be well enough to take the SPJ back to Cloudbase?”
The medic looked Blue with a probing eye, hesitantly at first; when he saw the tall American giving him a hopeful look – in which he could almost detect a determination that would not accept any rejection - he sighed deeply.
“He should be, if he doesn’t fly the plane himself…”
“He certainly won’t,” Ochre declared. “I will fly the jet back.”
“… And you should get him to rest in the passenger cabin,” the medic continued.
“We can manage a bunk in the back,” Scarlet confirmed.
“All right then,” the medic finally agreed. “I’ll give you some painkillers, Captain Blue, in case you need them on your way back. You might expect headaches… and sore muscles, especially in the morning.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Blue said, genuinely grateful.
“Don’t thank me. You’ll be getting that rest I’ve prescribed you. I’ll be calling Doctor Fawn with a full report of what happened to you and of my diagnosis, and will recommend – no, request – that you get examined upon your arrival on Cloudbase.” The medic turned his back on the sulking Blue to address Scarlet and Ochre. “In the meantime, I’m making both of you responsible for him for the duration of the trip, Captains.”
“Sure, Doc. I’ll personally make sure he’s comfortable.” Scarlet answered. He squeezed Blue’s shoulder in a comforting and supportive way, grinning at him. “It’ll make a nice change,” he added. “For once, it won’t be you watching over me… but me doing it for you.”
Blue forced a smile on his pale face and nodded very slowly in answer to Scarlet’s comments.
He was willing to do whatever was asked of him – as long as he would be going to Cloudbase.
“What are you trying to prove, exactly, Captain Blue? That you are a tough customer?”
Lying on the examination table in Cloudbase sickbay, Captain Blue rolled his eyes, hearing Doctor Fawn’s invective. It wasn’t the first time he’d heard him say the same thing, and so he didn’t reply to it, but compliantly let the physician pursue his check-up. He did feel drained, and didn’t remember most of his flight back to base. He wondered if the painkillers given him by the doctor at the Research Centre were sleep-inducing – or if, rather, he had taken some sleeping tablets instead, to ensure that he would keep quiet during the trip.
“You’re covered with bruises almost all over,” Fawn continued, feeling Captain Blue’s bare torso with his expert fingers. The latter flinched when he reached a particularly sensitive point along the right side of his body, where the skin had taken on an ugly bluish colour. The physician grimaced. “Well, if you don’t have cracked ribs, you’re certainly the luckiest man on earth…”
“Thank you, Doctor,” Blue answered between his teeth. “Would you mind not probing there? It hurts.”
“Does it?” Fawn replied matter-of-factly. “I hadn’t realised that…” He shook his head in resignation. “The effect of the painkillers must have worn off. I’ll prescribe you some more.” He left Blue to turn around and grab a writing pad. “Okay, you’ll be suffering from pulled muscles and aching joints, but that should dissipate quickly enough. This concussion of yours is worrying me a little more. You can expect headaches and nausea for some time; I don’t expect it to be more severe than that, but I’ll be keeping you under observation a few days, just to make sure.”
Blue sat up, and swung his legs over the side of the examination table. The movement made him groan; he did feel sore all over.
“No thank you, Doctor,” he said quietly.
Fawn raised a perplexed brow as he watched him reach for his uniform top. “ ‘No, thank you, Doctor’?” he repeated, as if he couldn’t believe his ears. “You need rest, Blue, and you’re getting it, whether you want it or not! I can have you confined to sickbay if I want, until I find your condition satisfactory and I feel inclined to let you go!”
Blue sighed, starting to pull his shirt over his head. “Can’t I go rest in my quarters instead?” he requested. “I’ll be far more comfortable there…”
Fawn scowled. “Since when have you known me to allow that? I need to have someone keep an eye on you, and I can’t afford to assign a nurse to your quarters for a day or two!”
“Well, that’s very kind of you, Doctor,” Blue chuckled with a slight smile. “But I won’t have any need of your nurse.”
“Is that so?” Fawn was beginning to get very irritated with his patient, and he was glaring at him with barely contained anger, when the door to the examination room slid open and a slender form walked in. Upon seeing who it was, Blue’s eyes lit up, and he jumped to his feet to stand tall.
“Ah, Symphony,” Doctor Fawn said, as the two of them turn to face the young woman who was approaching them. “You’ve just in time to try and convince this thick-head of a fiancé of yours that he needs to stay here in sickbay!”
“What’s going on?” Symphony came to a stop in front of the two men, and looked directly at Blue, who was standing like a statue in front of her, his eyes riveted on her concerned-looking face. “I heard about the accident in Valley Forge, and that you had been hurt.”
“I’m fine,” he said in a soft voice.
“No, he’s not,” Fawn intervened. “He’s got a concussion – probably nothing severe, but he needs rest, and he won’t hear any of it!”
“From what I heard, you were not supposed to come back so soon and should have stayed there until you were well enough to travel,” Symphony said to Blue. “I’ve just returned from patrol with Rhapsody and I heard that you were already back.” She frowned in worry, noticing the intense way her fiancé was looking at her, and reached for his cheek with a hand. “Are you okay, Big Blue? You’re pale… You don’t look too good…”
“No, I’m fine,” he answered with a smile. “In fact, I’ve never felt better, since you walked in here.” Unexpectedly, he took a step forward, and gathered her in his arms, and leaned down to kiss her on the lips, tenderly. Rather perplexed by this gesture, Symphony let him, and answered in kind. Behind them, Fawn sighed in slight annoyance and rolled his eyes.
“This is not exactly what I meant when I mentioned rest,” he pointed out needlessly.
The kiss broke up, but Blue didn’t let go of his fiancée and kept gazing lovingly into her eyes.
“Wow…” she said under her breath. “Maybe you should get hurt more often…” He grinned widely at the remark.
“Certainly not,” Fawn commented with a frown, and the two left each other’s arms. “He’s becoming a worse patient than even his partner – who, I suspect, is starting to have a bad influence on him.” He looked pleadingly at the American Angel. “Symphony, please… Try to make him see some sense. He needs to stay under observation for at least a day.” He turned to Blue. “After that, I’ll agree to let you recover in your quarters for the rest of the week… If you promise to stay quiet.” He returned to Symphony. “And that, I’m counting on you to make sure that he does. And you know what I mean.”
She gasped in fake outrage, when she saw the amused smile on the doctor’s lips. “Doctor, how can you…”
“Easily, I can assure you.” Still smiling, Fawn turned back to Blue. “Is that a deal, then?”
Blue hesitated, really not tempted to accept; Symphony caressed his arm, and that gesture sent a shiver down his spine. He looked back at her smiling face.
“You’d better agree, honey,” she advised. “I’ll feel much better if they make sure you’re okay.”
He nodded then, if a little reluctantly. “All right,” he finally conceded. “I’ll stay the night then.”
Fawn heaved a deep sigh over this small victory. “Right. I’ll give Nurse Crawford instructions to prepare a private room for you.” He turned away from the young couple and went to his desk, where he picked up his phone to make the call.
Left with Symphony, Blue reached out to her and drew her close again. This time, he didn’t kiss her, but kept gawping at her, as if he was seeing her for the first time ever. “I miss you,” he whispered.
She smiled, a little awkwardly. “I missed you too, Big Blue – when I heard about the accident…”
He shook his head dismissively, the smile not leaving his face. “That was nothing. In a few days, it’ll only be a bad memory.” He frowned, and ran his fingers through her golden hair. “Will you do something for me? Let your hair grow… I love it when you have longer hair.”
She chuckled. “Well, it’s already starting to grow again, Adam… You know I always cut it shorter during the Summer…”
“I know,” he said quickly. “I mean… never cut it again, okay? I do prefer it long…”
She frowned. “That’ll be awkward when it reaches my ankles,” she joked. “I’ll think about it.” She quickly changed the subject. “While Doctor Fawn is making his call, there’s someone who wants to see you.”
“Who?” he asked her with a new frown. It was as if he had forgotten the existence of anyone else. Symphony chuckled, seeing the puzzlement in his face. She detached himself from him and took him by the hand.
“Who do you think?” she asked. “Come on, they’re waiting outside.”
When Symphony and Rhapsody Angels had arrived in sickbay a few minutes before, Captain Scarlet was in the reception area, just outside the examination room. Captain Ochre had left upon arrival on Cloudbase to make his report to Colonel White, and the English captain had elected to wait until he had news of their injured colleague. It had been two hours since then, and Scarlet was already on his third cup of coffee when the two Angels, returning from patrol, had come to join him. After Scarlet had informed them of the latest developments concerning the accident in Valley Forge, the concerned Symphony had not wasted too much time and had gone to the examination room to see her fiancé. She had quickly disappeared behind the door, leaving both Scarlet and Rhapsody to sit and wait impatiently; both agreed that if one person would be allowed into the room, it should be Symphony and that they should respect her right to some privacy with Blue – such as it was, with Fawn’s presence, anyway.
“The colonel isn’t going to be very happy with me,” Scarlet said quietly. “I should be up there, giving him my report of what happened at the Research Centre.”
“Ochre is doing that,” Rhapsody remarked. “The colonel knows where you are, and if he had really wanted to see you, he would have called for you long ago.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Scarlet conceded with a slow nod. He frowned. “I can’t quite work out what happened in that room. Nothing indicated that the device would explode…”
“You think that’s what happened?”
“I don’t know… It seems unlikely. Blue and I, we didn’t touch anything. Except for peeking inside one of those battery compartments, which were empty. That’s all we did, and I’m a hundred percent sure it had nothing to do with it. No… There was something else. I don’t know what yet.”
Rhapsody sighed. “The investigation will tell.”
“I suppose it will,” Scarlet murmured. “Obsidian is an efficient officer. If there’s something to be found, he’ll find it. In the meantime, we’ll have to wait.” He lowered his head. “Dianne… I really thought Blue had bought it, this time. That explosion was so violent – when the roof came down on us, I tried to push him out of harm’s way… Looks like I wasn’t quick enough…”
“He’s fine,” Rhapsody remarked. “From what you told me, you were both lucky not to be killed when it happened. I suppose the explosion looked worse than it really was?”
“Could be… We were in a confined room, after all… And with the reinforced walls, we…”
The door to the examination room slid open, interrupting him, and immediately, Scarlet and Rhapsody were on their feet. Symphony and Blue came out, holding each other; the young woman addressed a reassuring smile to the anxious-looking couple waiting for them.
“He’s going to be all right,” she said simply.
“Oh, wonderful!” A relieved Scarlet strode forwards and came to Blue, whom he took into his arms with a bear hug. The English captain wasn’t normally so demonstrative, but it was obvious that this recent close call had left him very concerned about his friend’s well-being.
“Ouch!” Blue grimaced between his teeth, forcing a smile onto his lips. “You’ll be finishing the job with my ribs if you continue like that.”
Scarlet let him go, and stepped back, as Rhapsody approached in turn, a gentle expression on her face. Blue looked at her in an awkward way, unsure of what she wanted to do. She opened her arms to him.
“I don’t think I’ll do as much damage, do you?”
She hugged him and, if still a little hesitantly, he enfolded his arms around her, very warmly. “With a smile like that?” he replied. “I don’t know…” He detached himself from her and, keeping his hands on her shoulders looked into her eyes.
“I’m glad you’re all right, Adam,” she said, her smile not leaving her face.
He nodded, still hesitant, and somehow, found that he couldn’t look her in the eyes and lowered his to break contact; Rhapsody noticed, but was probably the only one. She didn’t have time to ask him if there was something wrong, however, as Symphony was answering her comments, taking her fiancé by the arm.
“He is not ‘all right’. Doctor Fawn says he needs to stay a day in sickbay, under surveillance, because of this concussion of his. Then he’ll be allowed to rest in his quarters.”
“Oh.” Scarlet offered an teasing grin. “Are you sure you will really be resting in there, ‘Big Blue’?”
“Don’t you start getting dirty ideas, Mister Metcalfe,” Symphony said, before Blue could actually give his own answers. “I will personally ensure that Adam does get all the rest he needs in order to get better.” She looked at Blue, warningly. “And I am not kidding.”
He nodded submissively. His face was plainly saying that it was exactly what he was afraid to hear.
“Captain Blue?” Blue turned around, and saw Doctor Fawn at the door of the examination room; the physician was pointing towards a nurse, who was coming their way, pushing a wheelchair. “Your room is ready. Nurse Crawford will take you there. Just do what she says, will you?”
Blue answered with a grunt, but decided it was better not to argue. “All right… but I won’t need the chair. I can go on my own.”
Fawn shrugged, giving up. “Have it your way. But don’t complain if you overexert yourself and we need to keep you one more day…”
As Fawn disappeared back into the examination room, confident that his instructions would be followed to the letter, Blue turned to Symphony. “Karen, would you be a dear and run to my quarter, and get me a proper pair of pyjamas? I hate those sickbay gowns… I can never sleep in them.”
“I have a better idea,” Rhapsody said quickly. “Why don’t you go with him to his room, Karen? Paul and I will get the pyjamas in the meantime.”
“You’re a dear, Dianne,” Symphony told her English counterpart. “I owe you one. Come on, Big Blue. Let’s get you to bed… and you’ll be staying there, I can guarantee you.”
Blue answered her with a silent smile, and then addressed a thankful nod to both Scarlet and Rhapsody, his eyes staying on the latter for a time; again, the English pilot got the odd impression that he had gone suddenly shy with her, as he quickly looked the other way when she looked him in the eyes. She watched thoughtfully as he started following Nurse Crawford down the corridor leading towards the private rooms section, holding Symphony closely as he went.
“Something the matter?” Scarlet asked his fiancée quietly.
She frowned, unsure. “I don’t know… He doesn’t quite feel… the same.” She looked up at him. “Have you noticed how he seems awkward with me?”
“Does he? Well, he does seem like he’s not totally himself.” Scarlet shook his head. “It’s probably that concussion he’s suffering from… He’s confused. He’ll get better soon, I’m sure.”
“I’m sure too,” Rhapsody said in turn, as they started moving towards the exit. “If there’s one thing we know about our Captain Blue, it’s that you can’t keep him down for long. He always bounces back, better than ever.”
Nodding at this remark, Scarlet encircled his fiancée’s shoulders with his arm, and they both left sickbay.
Down in the corridor, Captain Blue and Symphony Angel, walking in a similar way, had reached the private room that Doctor Fawn had assigned to his reluctant patient. Nurse Crawford showed them in, and Symphony guided her visibly exhausted fiancé towards the bed, where he sat down heavily with a low groan, reaching for his throbbing head and closing his eyes for a moment.
“Are you going to be okay?” Symphony asked him in concern.
“Yeah,” he confirmed. “I have the grandfather of all headaches. I hate to admit it, but Fawn was right. That walk might have been a little too much. I will definitely need the rest.”
“Good,” Symphony replied with a sly smile. “That means we won’t have to fight with you, then.” She raised his left foot, and started to unzip his boot and he opened his eyes, looking at her with curiosity. “Just lie down, Big Blue,” she told him. “Nurse Crawford and I will start undressing you – until your pyjamas arrive.”
“Really, Karen, I don’t need…”
“Do as I say.” Her smile broadened. “You’ve got nothing to be shy about. Nurse Crawford is used to undressing patients, I’m sure.” She addressed a glance at the woman who had started working on Blue’s other boot, and saw the confirmation of her comments in the amused expression on her face. Symphony winked at her fiancé. “As for me, well… there’s nothing you have to hide that I haven’t seen before…”
He answered her with his own tired smile and, docilely, leaned his head on the high pillow behind him, sighing tiredly, and let the two women work at undressing him. He closed his eyes for a few short seconds, thinking how narrow an escape he had just made and that he had been so very close to losing everything, in one single blow.
He opened his eyes again, and caught his pale and weary reflection in a mirror on the wall in front of him.
A new smile, very thin, started drawing itself on his lips.
Everything was going exactly as planned.
None of them suspected a thing…